mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli

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Terra delendo est. (27)

World Without Us by Alan Weisman.

The mountain smolders,
Fat & rich with nuke-fire
While the birds return.

Okay, let me first say that I liked this. It is heavy on the pop, & I have a lot of complaints about it, but those are mostly discussion complaints; I want to argue about the book, which I would say is a fairly good sign. This is one of those books that basically everyone had read-- I figured I'd give it a whirl so as not to be left out of the loop. It is way too "pop" on the popular science scale for my taste, which is probably where a lot of my difficulties stem from. First, my favorite part was the bit about Masaai, cattle, & elephants. As for parts I wanted to complain about, well-- I'll have to do a little personal archeology here, because I just scribbled down the page numbers on a notecard as I was reading through. It started with some problematic language I didn't get the page number of-- he called Africa a "museum"? Which was some strangely patronizing & troublesome. Otherwise, I just was nitpicky on things like describing human evolution as the "most successful & the most destructive" (61)-- really? Compared to the rise of photosynthesizer who radically altered the atomospheric & geological makeup of the planet? I mean-- humans are starting to have a small ability to alter the geology of the Earth, but just barely. There are other things like calling AIDS the "animal's final revenge" (108)? What! What does that mean, like the gazelle Lex Luthor concoted it to get back at poachers? Nonsense-talk. There are a few bits I thought were silly-- in one breath lauding gene drift, in another condemning GMOs. Yeah, domesticization is weird, but the fact that those crops would disappear or change without human intervention is not a judge of value, & GMOs are not magically "bad," as people seem to take for granted. There are also a fair amount of bullshit numbers-- lies, damn lies, & statistics, that sort of thing. Lots of numbers without context peppered around; there were plenty in context too, but plenty without. & there are numbers used for emotional impact, rather than scientific-- okay, if there are 20 billion birds in America? & domestic cats kill a billion, & glass windows kill a billion, & electrical wires kill a billion (252)? It might behoove you to throw in some numbers about population growth regarding birds. & mentioning hunting? What? Hunting, with Weisman's numbers, kills 120 million. How is this comparable to billions? Why is this even included in the numbers? These are gamebirds, too, not bald eagles or whatever. Still, sometimes his inflamatory tone really works, like the "demand for exotic baubles" (290) characterizing the fall of the Mayan culture-- the prophetic wink-wink nudge-nudge at America kind of made up for the faerie tale about Mayans living in some Edenic equilibrium with the rain forest. Inbetween the sort of best-seller pop science though, there are a lot of solid talk about the consequences of human energy use, consumerism, all that; the conceit is strong enough that it never amounts to being preached at.
Tags: books, haiku

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